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Marx as the Historical Materialist: Re-reading The Eighteenth Brumaire*

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AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to re-read Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire by highlighting the political meaning of a materialist historiography. In the first part, I consider Marx’s historiographical and political intention to represent the history of the aftermath of the revolution of ’48 as a farce in order to liquidate ‘any faith in the superstitious past’. In the second part I analyse the theatrical register chosen by Marx in order to represent the Second Empire as a society without a body, a phantasmagoria in which the Constitution, the National Assembly and law – in short, everything that the middle class had put up as essential principles of modern democracy – disappear. In the third part I argue that Marx does not elaborate a theory of revolution that is good for every occasion. What interests him is a historiography capable of grasping, in the various temporalities of the revolution, the chance for a true liberation.

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